#1 Eat Pancakes For Sahoor (Breakfast)
Pancakes and syrup, even the all-natural Maple syrup from the tree, are simple sugars that’s going to give you an insulin spike then a crash. The little bit of energy you would have had until 12-noon will be cut short and you will find yourself feeling fatigue and brain fog earlier in the day. In addition pancakes have minimum nutritional value during a time when we should be focused more than ever on the quality of our food instead of the quantity. If you are only going to have time to eat two full meals then you need to make them nutrient dense meals to stave off hunger and fatigue as long as possible in the day.
#2 Cooking 3 Course Meals For Iftar (Dinner)
Ramadan is a time for spiritual renewal and development. Often times, women in particular, spend hours in the kitchen each night making extravagant 3 course meals for their family or for their guest. Although there is blessing in feeding the fasting person and of course we want our families to eat well after such long days, this reduces the amount of time that we spend doing traditional Ibadah which gets more blessings. And Yes, there is an Ibadah hierarchy. It is reported by Ibn Masood that the Messenger of Allah (saw) was asked which deed is most loved to God and he said, “Prayer in its time. Then I said, “then what,” and he said, “Being good to your parents.”….. (Agreed Upon) So ditch the, I need to be “Ramadan Betty Crocker” routine, plan some crockpot meals and set a goal to make more Salah with Kushoo (Concentration and attentiveness).
#3 Keep the Same Daily Routine
Despite the fact that we love being Muslim and for us the spiritual benefits far exceed the physical challenges of fasting it’s still hard sometimes, and that’s okay. Although, Christians and Jews fast as a part of their spiritual ritual, the Islamic fast is the most strict and extensive of all the Abrahamic faiths. There are unavoidable physical effects of fasting, especially since we will be fasting with no food or drink for 15-17 hours a day. You will get weak towards the end of your day due to lack of food. The speed and clarity in which a fasting person thinks towards the end of the day is reduced due to the drop in insulin level. Physical fatigue is a real problem after a couple weeks due to dehydration. These things are real, but fasting is obligatory to every Muslim so we have to adjust and plan around it. Try to do your most physically and mentally taxing work earlier in the day if you can. If you have a job or a co-worker that may change shifts with you for a month so you can work earlier or the night shift when you are not fasting. Offer to work on Christmas and Easter and other holidays for them. If changing your shift isn’t possible, don’t be shy to have a heart to heart with your boss and co-workers. Let them know you will be fasting and may feel a little fatigued some days but will do your best to maintain the same quality of work and professionalism you do the rest of the year. Most of the time non-Muslims are very respective and helpful. It fascinated many of them that we would and could fast the way we do and they will offer to take a project or give you lighter assignments.
#4 Exercise While You Are Fasting
Please drop the “Fit Ramadan” routine. Fasting 17 hours a day is no joke and it doesn’t make you a fitness queen when you workout while you are fasting. In fact it does the opposite. After a workout our body looks to our nutrients to build and restore muscles. This is the reason a well thought out fitness plan includes post-workout snacks. Building and maintaining muscle is absolutely vital to every fitness goal. If you want to “tone up”, muscle is what creates that tight and toned look. If you want lose weight, for every pound of muscle you gain you boost your metabolism 50 calories a day which helps you not only lose weight but keep it off as well. If you want to get arms like Michelle Obama, yeah that’s muscle too. When you exercise while you are fasting you leave a critical nutritional window immediately following your workout open and empty so in response you body will begin to cannibalize it’s own muscle, leaving you with a slower metabolism, less tone and less strength. So if you insist on workout during the month of Ramadan, scale back the intensity and workout in the evening.
#5 Use Fasting as a Weight Loss Diet
Every year I cringe when people tell me they are going to use Ramadan as a time detox or diet. The first problem with this is a spiritual one. Every action is judged for it’s intentions and if your intentions are to make your fast a diet then you have just voided all spiritual benefit. Secondly “detoxing” and dieting can have negative side effects that can make you physically ill and unable to fast. It’s not uncommon for people to “detox” and have flu-like symptoms the first few days. If this happens then you have basically sabotaged your own self and missed the blessing of fasting that day. Yes, you can make it up later if you are sick but in addition to not being able to fast, if you are sick you probably won’t be able to do other forms of Ibadah with focus if at all. Ramadan is a time for spiritual cleanse not physical cleanse. It’s a time for a diet of Nafs (the lower desires) not a food diet.
[This article is the first of a series of health and fitness articles to help Muslims meet the challenge of fasting during the summer months. For the weekly series visit www.FitMuslimah.com or Get THE RAMADAN SURVIVAL GUIDE at www.RamadanSurvivalGuide.com ]
Next article in this series – Ramadan is Coming … Run
Mubarakah Ibrahim is the owner of BALANCE Fitness Studio for Women in New Haven, CT. She is an AFAA Certified Personal Trainer, Fitness Counselor and Authorized Oasis in the Overwhelm® Trainer. She has appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show “Thirty-something in America”, is a contributing expert to Prevention Magazine on fitness for women over 40, appeared on the covers of the Hartford Current, New Haven Advocate and Chicago Tribune. Mubarakah lectures, promotes and conducts workshops on alternative health, fitness and healthy living throughout the World.